HName: Selz, Peter H[oward]
Placeborn: Munich, Germany
HDescrip: Art historian of German Expressionism and Professor of Art
History, University of California, Berkeley,1965-1988. Selz was the son of
Eugene Selz and Edith Drey (Selz). Of Jewish parentage, he fled Nazi
Germany with his family arriving in the United States in 1936. Selz
attended Columbia University for the 1937-38 year. He also established a
connection with Alfred Stieglitz, a distant relative, who introduced him to many
New York and European expatriate artists. During World War II, he
served in the U.S. Army in Office of Strategic Services from 1941 until 1946. He
became a naturalized citizen in 1942. After the War, he married the writer Thalia
Cheronis (b. 1925) in 1948. He attended the University of Chicago, where he received
his A. M., in 1949. Awarded a Fulbright grant for University of Paris and Ecole de Louvre, he spent a year in Paris, 1949-50. Returning to Chicago,
he taught as an instructor while completing his Ph.D. at the University. At
Chicago, the chair, Ulrich Middeldorf (q.v.) suggested the topic of German
Expressionism to Selz. A second Fulbright grant was awarded to him to
study at the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in 1953. His dissertation on
German Expressionism, written under Joshua Taylor (q.v.) in 1954, was one of the
first from an English-language institution. During these same years he headed
the education department at Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of
Technology, Chicago, (to 1955). In 1955 he moved to Pomona College,
Claremont, CA, to chair the art department and be director of the art gallery.
Selz became the curator of department of painting and sculpture exhibitions at
the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1958. At the Modern, his
exhibitions included the infamous1960 Jean Tinguely "Homage to New York," a
sculpture that destroyed itself (and started a fire) in the sculpture garden of the Museum. He also
launched important retrospectives, including the first Rodin retrospective in
the United States and a comprehensive exhibition of
Alberto Giacometti’s work in 1965. That year he was called to University of
California, Berkeley to found that university's art museum. He was first
director 1965-73, concomitantly teaching as professor of art history, 1965-88.
He divorced his first wife in 1965. He was awarded the Order of Merit from Federal
Republic of Germany in 1967 for his study of German Expressionism. Together
with his mentor, Taylor, and his colleague at Berkeley, Herschel Chipp (q.v.), he co-edited the first collected
essays on American primary source theories of modern art in 1968. He
taught as Zaks Professor, Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1976. In 1983
he married Carole Schemmerling. He was a visiting professor at the City
University of New York in 1987. In 1988 he became emeritus at Berkeley.
He was appointed a member of the advisory council of the Archives of American
Art in 1971. For the 1972-73 year he was a senior fellow, National Endowment for
the Humanities. From 1993 he served on the acquisitions committee, Museums of
Fine Arts, San Francisco. He served as a member of board of
directors for the College Art Association 1958-64, and again in 1966-71.
As an art historian, Selz was one of the first to examine German
Expressionism not as a series of stylistic changes (formalism), but as motivated
by the politics of the time. His interest in art as a political phenomenon
never altered. Selz was fortunate enough to interview many of the German
Expressionist artists or their widows in the 1950s while they were still alive.
HCountry: Germany/United States
HBiography: Who's Who in American Art 22 (1997-98):
; "Peter (Howard) Selz," Contemporary Authors; Selz, Peter.
"Beyond the Mainstream: Fifty years of Curating Modern and Contemporary Art."
lecture delivered at Duke University, September 10, 2004.
HBibliography: [dissertation:] German Expressionist Painting from its
Inception to the First World War. University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1954,
revised and published as, German Expressionist Painting. Berkeley, CA:
University of California Press, 1957; Art in a Turbulent Era. Ann Arbor,
MI: UMI Press, 1985; Art in Our Times: A Pictorial History. New York:
Abrams, 1981; Emil Nolde. New York: Museum of Modern Art/Doubleday, 1963;
Alberto Giacometti. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York/Art
Institute of Chicago/Doubleday,1965; Beyond the Mainstream: Essays on Modern
and Contemporary Art. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997; and
Brüschweiler, Jura, and Hattis, Phyllis, and Wyler, Eva. Ferdinand
Hodler. Berkeley: University Art Museum, 1972; and Rickey, George.
Directions in Kinetic Sculpture. Berkeley: University Art Museum [and]
the Committee for Arts and Lectures, University of California, 1966; and Chipp,
Hershel B., and Taylor, Joshua. Theories of Modern Art: a Source Book
by Artists and Critics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.
This information is from www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org